How did I get here? The path on which I started has become flooded with unexpecteds, eventually pulling me beneath the surface. I pop back up, desperate for air… Unable to see the shore, my hope soon fades to darkness. I’m drowning, helpless to move forward, awaiting the inevitable as I grasp for something, anything, that might save me from going under…

While we may not literally find ourselves in a body of water, the feeling we’re drowning within the river of our lives is a difficult reality almost every one of us face at some point. Stuck in a whirlpool of motion outside our control, hopelessness takes the reigns, as our breathing becomes labored and our vision clouded. The very thought of being back on solid ground seems hopeless, while outsider suggestions to “dream of a better future” feel ludicrous.

While I regularly write of the value of stepping outside our habitual, sleep-walking lives and opening ourselves to new potential, the reality is many of us aren’t sleepwalking at all. We’re drowning! We’re overwhelmed by the pressures of life, see no hope of life improving, and are just trying to survive today so we can get TO tomorrow, let alone make it better.

So what now?

Pick one.

The human mind is oddly fascinating. Perhaps one of the most intriguing elements is our natural tendency to allow the Siren’s song to pierce our realities at precisely the wrong time. When it comes to sleep, alcohol, screen time, relationships, sunshine, activity, healthy fueling, and similar options, when are we most likely to follow the downward spiraling path? Exactly. I’m right there with you. The more we could benefit, the less likely we are to take that (optimal) road less traveled.

It is precisely this realization that can become the initial catalyst out of the swirling whirlpool around us… if we maintain an accurate perspective.

Yes, of course. It would be great if we could build a boat out of thin air amid our drowning state, addressing all elements to move us toward a better future. It’s not going to happen. But we can pick one – identifying a singular element that will create the initial step forward. However, in doing so, we must make certain it’s foundational rather than sensational.

Con artists promise a speedboat to those drowning. They then deposit the cash and deliver a gold-painted popsicle stick. In today’s pseudoscience-heavy, click-seeking world of social media, it’s tempting to fall for the hype, the big promise that will “save us.” Folks – stop waiting for the hero to walk through that door. They’re not coming – unless we invite them in by sharing our struggles with a friend or directly reaching out for help.* However, the initial step, including the option of making that invitation, is up to you. YOU are the one who will turn the tide… one step at a time.

What’s your first step? I don’t know. Nobody can answer that except you. The encouraging news is that it almost doesn’t matter which (foundational) step you choose, as life is more about compounding than perfect selection. Start with a buoy – any buoy. Trade 30 minutes of screentime for sleep, drop the weekday alcohol, go for a lunchtime walk in the sunshine, talk to a coach, physician or therapist, nix the fast food, call that friend… ANY of these (or other cornerstone components) can provide the initial buoy to which you can hold, catch your breath, and continue forward. Don’t initially set expectations involving timelines or any other steps. Pick one. Build consistency and allow the compounding to garner traction. Just as the “Rule of 72” indicates our financial investments double with each multiple of 72 (e.g., 9% return over 8 years doubles your initial funds), the same is true in our lives. A slight increase in sleep – or any of the areas noted – increases our likelihood of positive changes elsewhere. Your consistency drives the compounding. The compounding creates the initial infrastructure on which you can continue – when the time comes – building.

When we’re drowning, the future is nonexistent. There is only the “hopeless now.” But a spark of hope and the kindling of small, initial changes creates just enough flame to generate light in the darkness. And with that light, the darkness will eventually cease to exist…

*Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is avail 24/7. Simply text 988 to connect.

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